When Detroit King’s football team started lifting weights in January, coach Dale Harvel didn’t want to hear any talk about the undefeated 2015 Division 2 state championship team.
“People were coming around trying to honor the championship team and Coach Harvel wouldn’t hear it,” said then-defensive coordinator Tyrone Spencer. “As soon as we started lifting he wanted the guys to forget about the season.”
Ten days ago, the King community buried Harvel, who died of a heart attack after a 7-on-7 scrimmage in July.
Spencer is now the head coach, having prepared under legendary coach James Reynolds and Harvel who, like Spencer, made his mark as the Crusaders’ defensive coordinator.
The football team assembled at 5 p.m. Monday, drifted to the field and was ready to go by 6 for its first fall practice.
“I think I got to sleep about 3 a.m. (Monday morning),” Spencer said. “I was just ready to get out here and get going.”
Losing Harvel was traumatic, but now the program has to move forward. And plenty of Division 1 talent has to be replaced.
Donnie Corley, the hero of the Division 2 championship game with his game-winning touchdown catch against Lowell last year, is at Michigan State. Running back Martell Pettaway is at West Virginia. Lavert Hill, a star in the backfield and in the secondary, is a freshman at Michigan. Armani Posey, who took over at quarterback and never looked back, is at Bowling Green.
“As long as we know this is about us, we’ll be OK,” Spencer said. “You see people wearing shirts saying ‘Detroit against Everybody.’ It’s similar to that.”
Youth is everywhere. There’s a competition at quarterback. Kevin Willis is expected to see extensive time in the backfield. Star senior Ambry Thomas, the No. 2 overall recruit in Michigan for 2017, will be everywhere.
“Right now, for sure, just at receiver and DB,” Thomas said of where he will play.
“Kickoff and punt returns,” he added. “Kick return gets me excited. All last year, I wasn’t able to do it. All Little League, I did it. It was smooth. I’m going to get it done this year.
“First day of practice; we’re looking to pick up where we left off from last year.”
That would be fine for junior offensive lineman Josh Mayberry. He missed last season because of an ACL injury.
“It broke my heart having to watch,” he said. “They needed me. I thought I could have helped them more during the season. It was a really good year. We had a lot of big people on our team. It was just crazy. I had never been hurt like that. I’m really excited. I’ve been looking forward to this since last year. We should be a good powerful team. We should be able to do something this year. Everybody will find out on Aug. 27.”
A gleam was in his eye. Mayberry’s ready.
Other possible contributors include senior wide receiver Christian Chapman and senior linebacker Cepeda Phillips.
There are subtle differences between Harvel and Spencer.
“Coach Spencer is different intensity-wise,” said lineman Damani Green, a three-year letter winner. “Coach (Spencer), he can handle things a little bit easier than Coach Harv. Coach Harvel was pretty intense.”
Contact Perry A. Farrell: 313-222-2555 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @farrellperry.